UPDATE 2/12/2015 11:30 AM
Rethinking Wood County's cracker plant.
Developers say they're concerned about the future of natural gas.
This comes from the Charleston Gazette after an oil and gas meeting in Charleston Wednesday.
An Odebrecht official was quoted as saying "it's a period of rethinking" as natural gas prices drop and the region isn't what it was two years ago.
The company says it is going to do what's best for their shareholders and the long term outlook for their products is good.
West Virginia's department of commerce is responding to this statement, telling us "Throughout this process, Odebrecht has been thoughtful and strategic. As the energy market continues to change, re-thinking the best path forward for the Wood County cracker is understandable. Our ongoing conversations with the company continue to be positive, and we remain optimistic the project will be completed."
UPDATE: 2/05/2015 5:08 P.M.
Washington County Commissioners approved a project request for the Ethane Cracker Thursday morning. It's an opportunity for the Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council to do more research.
It's a six month two-part study to find out what products the cracker plant needs for production and to find out what businesses in the area could use those products.
The research started in October finding general information on plants and now that research is focusing on our area.
The approval today was to help finance the study which comes from a number of agencies including the Local Development Authority and the MOV Regional Council.
The council plans to go before Wood County Commissioners and Commissioner Blair Couch says he looks forward to what they have to say.
"I'm always worried about studies. We have a lot of studies that sit on a shelf that don't actually help us and I'm sure the regional council, one of the better organizations in this area has a good reason for it and it will be a good education for them to come before us," says Blair Couch.
The research is expected to be completed by April.
Update: 11/18/2014 9:00 P.M.
The cracker, also known as Project Ascent, is entering a final phase: one, however, that will be both lengthy and costly.
The president of the Area Roundtable was among those who just returned from a week-long trade mission to Brazil; meeting with the project's developers.
He says the project's final phase before construction will take several months... costing close to 150 million dollars.
"Pre-engineering work is really what is going to be the focus coming up," said Cam Huffman. "They've made a lot of strides with the project. And a believe the next phase is going to be this pre-engineering project."
Huffman continues optimism about the project, pledging to work with employment agencies to find workers for both the plant and the construction.
And the Wood County Development Authority wants to find other businesses willing to locate in the plant area.
Huffman also had an update on efforts to find a buyer for the now-closed Coldwater Creek complex in Mineral Wells.
Nine companies have contacted him about the facility, and two have expressed interest in it.
Huffman optimistically told the Area Roundtable membership Tuesday an offer to buy it could be made within a few weeks.
Update 11/17/2014 3:45 P.M.
Cam Huffman from the Wood County Development Authority was among state leaders, including Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who met with project developers in Brazil last week.
Huffman says they've been told the project time frame has been pushed back a year.
He was hoping for a construction start early next year.
Project officials, however, already have suggested a final announcement won't be made until late 2015.
Huffman will talk about the project in more detail at the development authority's annual meeting Tuesday afternoon.
Update 11/14/2014 4:30 P.M.
One year ago, November 14, 2013-Wood County got the news it was hoping for: It was the site of a proposed ethane "cracker".
But construction is yet to get under way.
This anniversary comes as several officials from West Virginia and Wood County are wrapping up a week-long meeting with business leaders in Brazil.
It's a trade mission local officials hope will pave the way for construction as soon as next year.
While there hasn't been any construction, there have been several forward steps.
Back in March, drilling company Antero Resources announced an agreement to provide 30,000 barrels of ethane a day to the plant.
And around the first of the year, the project developers got a transfer of land from Sabic Innovative Products, the company at the proposed cracker site.
"This company will spend almost $5 billion to build this plant," Keith Burdette, Executive Director of the West Virginia Development Office, told us last week before leaving on the mission to Brazil. "It will consume somewhere in the neighborhood of 7500 construction workers at its peak. It will employ multiple hundreds of people once it's up and running, and hopefully drive downstream plants we want to recruit as well."
A top official of Odebrecht, which along with Braskem, is one of the companies involved in the project, said recently a final decision on building the cracker may be made by the end of next year.
Before leaving on the mission, Burdette told us there are still "a lot of hoops to jump through" before constuction of the cracker becomes a reality.
UPDATE 11/6/2014 3:15 PM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is set to lead a trade mission to Brazil to discuss the potential development of a petrochemical complex and ethane cracker plant in Wood County.
Officials say the five-day mission is scheduled to begin Monday and will include members of the West Virginia Development Office.
Tomblin's office says the focus of the trip is to continue ongoing discussions with petrochemical giant Odebrecht and plastics maker Braskem regarding the potential site.
The complex would be known as Ascent, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.
Since announcing the initial stages of the project last November, two natural gas companies have signed on as the anchor and supporting ethane suppliers for the project.
The trip marks Tomblin's third international mission. He previously led missions to Europe and Japan.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 8/26/2014 5:00 PM
Environmental officials are calling it a promising step toward bringing the proposed cracker plant to Wood County
The West Virginia DEP accepted a Voluntary Remediation Program application Monday.
The application is from the Texas company exploring the development of an ethane cracker plant in Washington.
ASCENT is hoping to get a certificate from the DEP as both parties work together to find health risks associated with the cracker plant and set standards for work to be done at the site.
"It will bring jobs to the community and through the volunteer remediation program they will be able to remediate their contamination of the site," says Erin Brittain, with the WVDEP.
Brittain says it should take about a month for the application to be reviewed and approved.
Then, ASCENT and the DEP would sign a volunteer remediation agreement, recognizing the approval of the application.
UPDATE 8/25/2014 4:10 PM
The cracker plant takes another step closer to coming to Wood County.
ASCENT submitted a Voluntary Remediation Program application.
It addresses environmental conditions at the Sabic facility in Washington.
The site consists of 363 acres, 194 of which are currently owned by ASCENT.
169 acres currently owned by Sabic will be transferred to ASCENT in November 2015.
The West Virginia DEP says all of the property will be used for an industrial facility with an ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants.
Update 6/04/2014 7:10 P.M.
Mark Hall is a West Virginia native. He also manages a Cabell county operation for Braskem, one of two companies involved with Odebrecht on development of an ethane cracker a few miles south of Parkersburg.
While he did not have new details for the Polymer Alliance Zone, he says the second of three phases of the plant's development has so far been successful.
"The financing is huge," Hall told the PAZ's members. "We can't ask for money without raw material. At the end of the day, we have to prove we can make product once we build this facility, once we have some customers. We have to have some kind of infrastructure that says, 'now you've got the ethane, now you can get it to the facility."
A recent deal with Antero Resources helped to ensure Odebrecht had those raw materials.
Hall spoke to the annual meeting of the PAZ's annual meeting, and the first since last November's announcement of the cracker coming to West Virginia.
The organization's president calls the cracker an important part of the development of the area's chemical industry.
"I know our state is active in recruiting business," says President Karen Facemyer, "and doing everything it can to make sure that when a business wants to develop here, that it can develop here."
In spite of the positive announcements, actual construction is still a long way off. but the signs of progress toward that construction is encouraging to both business and the community.
UPDATE 5/15/2014 4:20 PM
Six months and cracker plant plans are still moving forward.
Last November 14th Odebrecht announced plans to build an ethane "cracker" in Wood County.
The latest development is that Ascent, the company occupying the complex, has now submitted applications for two permits.
One is an air quality permit and the other is for an evaluation under West Virginia's remediation program.
Also since last fall, ownership of the current site of the Sabic plant in Washington, West Virginia was transferred to Ascent last January.
One issue involves the land Sabic had allowed the Tri-C program to use for its ball fields.
It's hoped a new site can be found for the baseball and softball teams to play.
"Braskem is such a class-act company, it would appear, that it would be nice for them to help a little bit, too," says Wood County Commissioner Wayne Dunn. "But with the county commission and the cities, hopefully there will be a lot of people who will be a part of the solution."
The permits are part of an ongoing feasibility study for plant construction.
Odebrecht said last fall it is not setting a date for a groundbreaking in the near future.
The county commissioners, however, have taken the permit filings as a positive sign the project is moving in that direction.
UPDATE 5/15/2014 12:10 PM
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - A company studying the feasibility of building an ethane cracker plant in Wood County applied for two state permits.
The Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise LLC is seeking an air quality permit and a permit to evaluate the site of the proposed plant under the state's Voluntary Remediation Program.
Company spokeswoman Denise Cruz says permitting is another administrative step in an ongoing feasibility study of the proposal.
The company's parent, Odebrecht, announced plans last fall to develop a cracker facility, three polyethylene plants and associated infrastructure for water treatment and energy co-generation in Wood County.
Cracker plants crack or convert ethane into ethylene, a widely used chemical compound. Ethane is a byproduct of natural gas drilling.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 3/26/2014 11:10 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Antero Resources says it will be the anchor ethane supplier for a proposed cracker plant in Wood County.
Antero announced an agreement on Wednesday to provide 30,000 barrels of ethane a day to the plant, if it's built.
Brazilian petrochemical giant Odebrecht is exploring the possibility of building the ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants in Wood County. The complex would be known as Ascent, which stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.
Antero says in a news release that Ascent would use the ethane it supplies to manufacture polyethylene.
Odebrecht would lead the project's investment and financing, along with water and electric utility operations. Plastics maker Braskem S.A. of Brazil would handle petrochemical-related activities.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says the Antero agreement is a major step forward for the project.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
UPDATE 3/21/2014 3:40 PM
They're moving along rather quietly, but efforts to locate a cracker plant in Wood County have continued throughout the winter.
Wood County Development Director Cam Huffman says several teams representing the two companies involved in the project have been spending more time in the area lately.
There have also been several meetings, which Huffman says have been very positive.
It is to be built on the current site of the Sabic plastics plant, and could bring a large number of jobs and economic development to the area.
UPDATE 1/15/2014 4:45 PM
A first step, but a big step.
The proposed Wood County cracker plant project moves forward.
Local economic officials say a lot remains to be done before construction shovels start digging.
The Wood County Development Roundtable is working with the state of West Virginia on incentive plans to finance it.
Tuesday, a deed transferring the Sabic property in Wood County for the project was filed with the assessor's office.
The total value of the property is nearly $11 million.
New developments on that proposed cracker plant in Wood County.
The Wood Co. Assessor's Office confirms to WTAP News, a deed was for transfer of two tracts of land; one for nearly 155 acres, the other for nearly 11 acres.
The deed includes the names of two companies: Appalachian Shale Cracker, L.L.C., and Sabic Chemical.
The Sabic Company is where it was announced the ethane cracker would be built.
The declared value of the two tracts is 10.9 million dollars.
UPDATE 12/10/2013 9:35 AM
State leaders came together in Morgantown Monday, talking about one of the mountain state's biggest issues: the future of energy.
Representative David McKinley joined an expert panel of lawmakers, business leaders and energy advocates at West Virginia University.
The group focused on proposed energy policies and projects like the local cracker plant.
Proposed regulations of the coal industry were also a hot topic.
The public energy forum is designed to get feedback from multiple perspectives.
"We know how to solve problems but we can't solve them overnight," says Rep. McKinley. "So when these regulations come down, give industry, and businesses, and utility companies adequate time to come-up with solutions."
"It's part of, in a sense, an educated process where they learn about each other, their points-of-view and hopefully through that we come to share a consensus on what the path forward should be for the good of everyone," says Dr. Fred King, with WVU Research and Development.
Congressman McKinley also said the state needs to develop a strategic energy plan.
He called those remarks the most important focus of Monday's forum.
UPDATE 12/09/2013 11:15 AM
All the big news recently for the local natural gas industry is expected to be a hot topic at Monday morning's second annual energy forum in Morgantown.
Congressman David McKinley along with West Virginia University will host the public forum at the campus's Mountainlair Ballroom.
McKinley says the potential local cracker plant will be quote "front-and-center" of discussion.
"I'm just delighted with what the state's done in providing an attractive opportunity for them to locate here," he says. "But we want to make sure that those same things also occur in other industries."
McKinley calls the cracker plant a great example of what can be accomplished when the state and federal government are working together.
Other industry, labor, and environmental leaders from around the country are expected to attend Monday's forum.
Update: 12/02/2013 8:00 PM
There was an underlying theme to Monday's annual meeting of the the Area Roundtable's Board of Directors: the recent announcement Wood County is in line for an ethane "cracker".
Celebrating along with the roundtable's board: David Peebles, an executive with one of the two companies planning to build the project. He says a lot of factors were involved in it being located here, not the least of which is the reception from the community.
"Because you can make the business decisions on economics, but you have to also make it on places you want to be in the long term," said Peebles, a director with the petrochemical company Odebrecht. "You want to make sure people are enjoying your presence and you're enjoying theirs. And that's what we feel here."
And there may be more coming. While it's not as large as the "cracker", a manufacturing firm plans to locate in Pettyville.
West Virginia Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette, a local native who preceeded current county Development Authority President Cam Huffman, agrees there are more potential announcements coming.
"This area has consistently had a pretty stable economy," noted Burdette, the meeting's keynote speaker. "It doesn't have great highs and great lows. What we're talking about now is a new chapter in the area's economy, and not about what will happen in the next year or so, but what will happen in the next five to 50 years."
Whether more development happens or not, the authority can look to the future...even in a still-difficult economy.
UPDATE 11/22/2013 4:10 PM
We've been discussing the possibility of a lot of new jobs coming to our region with the cracker plant project.
Potentially thousands of jobs coming to the local natural gas industry.
But the impact could be even larger.
Officials with Workforce West Virginia say right now the local economy is slow but it's picking up, mostly in part to seasonal holiday business.
Looking-ahead, they expect the cracker project to help bring a large amount of jobs to other industries throughout the Valley.
"It will be a trickle-down effect," says Jeff Noland, with Workforce West Virginia. "When you bring in new companies to the area you bring in good news to the economy, so it starts to expand. Other companies may want to locate. So it's really good news."
Noland asks anyone looking for a job to visit Workforce West Virginia offices at the Lakeview Shopping Center.
Workforce provides a free link between applicants and employers.
Anyone filling out an application also receives free training and even help with their resume.
UPDATE: 11/18/2013 9:00 PM
A boon for the area and job creation, significant for those who gain employment at the cracker plant.
Jobs will include chemical and mechanical engineers who run the facility to management.
"On through the laborers, the plant operators, who'll be working there and responsible for day-to-day maintenance and operation of the facility, so it's gonna be a big deal,” says Dr. Robert Chase, chair of the Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology at Marietta College.
The plant will take the natural gas and remove some materials like ethane.
"And going through this process we call 'cracking' and turning it into a useful product material that can be used by many of the plastic plants in the area,” Chase says.
The ethane cracker plant could find a home in Wood County, but it won't be an easy process and could be years in the making.
“It's going to require not just the development of that facility but the development of pipelines, new pipelines,” Chase says, “that will transport natural gas and the natural gas liquids to that plant for the cracking process; so it's considerable."
Companies developing these plants have to consider the environmental impact.
"That the danger to the environment – I'll never say it's risk-free because it's not,” Chase says. “I mean, there's always dangers, but everybody works to minimize those risks."
With the rise of fracking sites, talk has turned to cracker plants.
According to Chase, the companies can see where the development is occurring. In this case, the development of the cracker plant group.
“I think the handwriting was on the wall to them that this was the ideal time to get this off the ground,” he says.
To get the project off the ground, it'll carry a hefty price tag of roughly a billion dollars.
UPDATE 11/18/2013 5:00 PM
A boon for the area and job creation.
Significant for those hired by the cracker plant.
Dr. Robert Chase, chair of the Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology at Marietta College, says the jobs will include everything from chemical and mechanical engineers to run the facility to management to workers and plant operators.
"The plant will be involved with taking the natural gas that is going to be produced in this area and taking out some of the materials like ethane from the gas stream," he says.
Dr. Chase says they'll go through the process of 'cracking' and turning it into a useful product used by many of the plastic plants in the area.
To get the project off the ground he says it'll carry a hefty price tag of roughly a billion dollars.
UPDATE 11/18/2013 5:00 PM
The commitment to the cracker plant project.
No firm timelines, but the promise of long term career oriented jobs keeps hopes up at city hall.
For the elected leaders of Wood County it's all about the follow-thru.
It's not just Parkersburg and Wood County.
Other cities on both sides of the river could benefit from the cracker as well.
They acknowledge there are issues about it, including environmental concerns, but mayors of two cities on opposite sides of the Ohio River are still excited about what may be the biggest local economic development in generations.
In particular, the Mayor of Belpre, who worked for years in the chemical industry, believes regulations and oversight today would practically prevent any environmental effects the petrochemical complex might have on the area
"You have to have so many clearances now to put in a mailbox, so if we pay attention to what we're doing, and I think we have a benefit coming to us," says Belpre Mayor Mike Lorentz.
"I think it tells people that (Wood County) had what it took to be the site that was selected," says Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp. "And this was very competitive; any city you talk to would love to have this."
Both mayors believe the plant, if it is built, will result in more businesses locating in the area, and eventually more people moving here to take the jobs it will provide.
And on that subject, the City of Vienna has had a housing boom for the past two decades and this, Mayor Rapp says, would ensure it would continue.
With all of the issues involving chemical plants, how environmentally friendly will the "cracker" be?
Those interested in the environment locally are optimistic about that.
One who has looked into the company handling the project believes the plant will be built with clean energy in mind.
"I understand the company working to build this is a very "green" company," says Wood County Commission President Wayne Dunn. "So I hope we'll be able to do this in a very environmentally sound means, because we want to protect the health of the community, as well as the economic well-being."
Odebrecht's own company statement says it invests in sustainable energy technologies, especially when it comes to waste water and waste management.
24 hours after Thursday's big announcement, optimism is high in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Now that it's been announced, is it a "go"?
Company officials and even the governor were cautious about whether the long-discussed "cracker" plant would actually happen.
Local development leaders tell us it was during a recent mission to Europe - one which involved state officials - that it appeared the announcement of the ethene "cracker" was imminent.
But everyone involved in Thursday's announcement added there are a lot of things to be worked out before that plant is actually running.
Still, there's optimism the plant will be in operation, even if it does take a few years.
"There's always something that can come up, but we're working diligently on any issues," says Wood County Economic Development Director Cam Huffman. "We're moving ahead; we're keeping the ball in play."
The biggest economic benefit could be more retail and travel-related businesses and, eventually, an increase in population in the area.
And keep this in mind: the proposed site for this petrochemical complex isn't far from Corridor D - long promoted as an economic plus to Wood County and the western part of Washington County - something that really hasn't happened yet.
An ethylene cracker plant project lands in Wood County
Problem is for now, it's all on paper.
Clearly it's a billion dollar project but there's still lots to do, including buying the land, building the infrastructure - which includes a pipeline - and finding the financing.
Even Governor Tomblin admits the project has a long way to go.
It's called Ascent.
That stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.
Odebrecht is the company behind it.
It seems like just about everyone connected in some way with this project called it "a game changer" for both West Virginia and the area.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin didn't even have to complete the sentence before everyone knew what he was here to announce.
It's not just a "cracker" - it's described as a petrochemical complex which includes an ethane cracker, three polyethylene plants, along with water treatment and equipment for energy generation.
But there are things for which Odebrecht will not right now make commitments.
"We're going through a checkup process. It involves expenditures in engineering, with lawyers, permitting...and assuming we go forward, there will be many jobs available. I don't want to get into the numbers," says company representative David Peoples.
The developers do have an option to buy the property in Wood County where the project is to be located.
But, again, everyone involved or interested in this agrees it is a major step forward for this area and the state.
The big announcement generates a lot of hopeful talk from both sides of the river.
Fracking is big business right now in southeast Ohio and if this kind of operation does get built it brings long term economic benefits, including jobs.
What Governor Tomblin tells us could potentially result in a tremendous opportunity for economic growth down the road.
We're talking lots of jobs - potentially a couple thousand across the natural gas industry once you factor in all the moving parts of this project.
Energy attorneys tell us they're very happy to hear the news.
"This is really a flagship economic development moment for the entire Mid-Ohio Valley region. What you're looking at is a really long-term impact," says Flite Freimann, with Bricker and Ecker LLP. "This is a moment for us to keep both the natural resources here in the area and to further develop jobs here. Depending on the size of the facility, you'd be looking at hundreds of construction jobs plus manufacturing plants."
Freimann also says what's really important to look at is the fact that outside entities - companyies not based in the Mid-Ohio Valley - are coming here to do business.
He says this shows that businesses are willing to invest in our region, making the future of job growth in the natural gas industry very bright.
WV Governor Tomblin announced a long term multi-billion dollar Ethylene Cracker plant project for Wood county.
It includes plans for three polyethylene plants.
It's part of a project called Ascent. That stands for Appalachian Shale Cracker Enterprise.
The Governor appeared with two of the investors on the project. Governor Tomblin made it clear the project has a long way to go, including pipelines, infrastructure and financing.
Ascent project organizers declined to comment on timelines, jobs and investment. They called it a deliberate project, and didn't want to set a specific date for a groundbreaking.
The organizers said they do have an option to buy the land. That property is the Sabic company along Washington Bottom near Dupont.
Ascent representatives talked about the environmental permitting process, calling it a positive process and vowed to follow best practices in that process.
More details throughout the day, and reaction tonight on WTAP News at 5 and 6.
Watch Governor Tomblin’s economic development announcement live on My5, channel 47.2 and streaming on thenewscenter.tv starting at 2pm.
UPDATE: 11/13/13 11:00 PM
It is being described as a major economic development for Wood County that could bring in thousands of jobs and dollars.
WTAP has confirmed that Gov. Tomblin will soon make an announcement regarding the sale of property along the Ohio River.
Sources say the plant could potentially be used to build a cracker plant tied to the fracking industry.
The land is currently owned by the Sabic Oil Company.
Governor Tomblin is expected to make the announcement at 2 pm today at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
We will keep you updated with the latest.
We've learned a major economic development announcement is less than 24 hours away.
Governor Tomblin is expected in Wood County Thursday for a planned 2 p.m. announcement.
The governor's office requested space at WVU Parkersburg's Caperton Center for the announcement and a private meeting to take place before that happens.
Although one source told us what the announcement is about we haven't been able to confirm it through a second source.
We will post the latest right here on thenewscenter.tv